Releases > Releases November 2021

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The Man Who Stayed Alive
Own Label, Distributed by Sony Music Ireland, 9 Tracks, 44 Minutes
From a bucket list to the finished product this is Christy Dignam’s gift to the nation, his legacy to us in music. Working with Don Mescall, who after reading Christy’s autobiography made bespoke songs to fit the singer’s psyche, Mescall writes most of the songs on The Man Who Stayed Alive, Christy covering one Leonard Cohen number So Long Marianne.
High was the track chosen to be the first single from this album and it’s a gem of a number; having all the hallmarks of George Martin era Beatles, and Christy’s delivery would put Oasis to shame. Like Penny Lane, Christy has that uncanny ability to make seemingly mundane suburban details bitingly relevant: for example the Saturday ritual of polishing the car, a bourgeois attempt to halt the inevitable effects of time by delaying the march of creeping rust. The paradigm reflects Christy’s condition, he’s living with a terminal disease, and this album therefore has a purpose beyond the usual plan to drive a commercial career ever onward.
Song for Kathryn (which features Imelda May) is a gentle thank you to his wife of over 30 years who has stood by him through the ups and downs of his helter-skelter lifestyle. It’s the most Irish sounding track on the album and came from a time when Christy was working with Finbar Furey. The title track is the most acerbic on the album, Christy talking of the media circus that surrounds the famous and the tabloids’ collective disappointment in his survival, as if his longevity cheated them of another red-top scoop.
Christy was trained as a belcanto singer, a technique that was popular in the 18th century and he absorbed his lessons well. No matter what subject he tackles, what emotional strain he shackles to the lyrics, his voice rings out on track after track, it’s easy, effortless and honest. There’s bird song and happiness, hope and inevitability here. The closing track is a statement of his joy at being alive, alive against the odds, and dire predictions of the alternative, called I Feel Alive, Christy sings “Looking out across the world I feel alive.”
Christy’s viewpoint is positive, and on this album he creates intelligent Irish music for folks of a certain age who have grown up with his work in Aslan, more than that, it is Christy’s lasting legacy for ages to come.
Seán Laffey

Run High
Trad Records 015, 10 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Geronimo isn’t some Native American chief or doomed Alpaca but the performing name of Flemish folk guitarist Jeroen Geerinck. You may know his music from his work with Hot Griselda, Snaarmaarwaar, Nova and Trio Dhoor. His albums regularly feature in our European Top Ten from Appel Records in the heart of Brussels. Active since 2007 he’s made around 18 albums to date, added to that impressive CV is his work as a producer for other leading bands in the Belgium folk stable.
This solo project was inspired by Jeroen’s early morning runs. Indeed there is a recommendation on a Flemish website that you listen to this when you have your jogging bottoms on and fancy a scamper around the local park. And why not?
The album is a guitar player’s delight, with lots of electric effects, judicious uses of loops and pedals; at all times they are subservient to the music rather than electro-gimmicks. There’s a smattering of Euro-jazz on The Promenade and some Southern rock on the Second Wave, but they are by no means typical of the mass of this album. His Break of Day is a mellifluous ambient track, with a deeply tonal bass line played on his acoustic guitar, velvety smooth and deeply intriguing like those dark chocolates you find on the Gross Markt in the capital. There’s an ounce or two of rock fuzz on Run High, where the sound of a dirty amp inveigles itself into the track. His Pace Up should be a gold mine for advertising executives looking for classy background music for cool new cars, whilst in contrast, the Long Jump quivers with vibrato and an earworm of an acoustic riff towards its end.
If guitars are your thing and if strings move you, and you fancy an exotic adventure away from the same old Americana, this album will be a real find. And if you are a runner, well, this album was made for you. Jog on Geronimo!
Seán Laffey

Tá Go Maith
Arbutus Yarns Recording Company, 9 Tracks, 48 Minutes
The cover of the album has Rónán standing in front of a glittering background; photographers call this effect Bokeh, a Japanese word for a technique to make the background into a mass of jewelled baubles. An apt choice of image for an album that was made in Shell Cottage in Kildare, famously decorated with thousands of exotic shells, collected by Emily Fitzgerald in the 18th century.
Fans of Kíla will be delighted with his album, Rónán’s style is a constant no matter in what musical setting he finds himself. We know it well; dense Gaelic lyrics presented as a mantra or catechism, the repeated phrase, the throb of bodhrán, the tribal fuaim of a primeval spirit, rooted in the beat on the goatskin and the ancient mesmerising bualadh bos.
Layer this in with Myles O’Reilly’s electronics and the Moog synthesizer, and track after track become a dizzyingly intoxicating journey. On Cad A Tugfadh Dom there’s a hang drum,  (a tounge drum on a hang body, made by a Jake Mc Carthy (Tungdrum Ireland) in Dublin, a modern Swiss invention combining rhythm with harmonic reverberation. Rónán’s signature repetition is most evident on Ar Ár Son (For us, on our behalf), and if you have time check out his online video of this, where he dances as he sings and explains the deeper meaning of the lyrics.
The project began with a chance meeting of Ó Snodaigh and O’Reilly in December 2020; a nod is made to this serendipity in Tá’n t’Ádh Liom’ (Luck is with me). Rónán’s guitar features as the lead on The Great, Gallant, Brave and Bold Edward Fitzgerald, a gentle tune, easy to replicate, dressed in O’Reilly’s washes of synth and with heavenly voices in its wordless chorus from Ó’Snodaigh and Rhob Cunningham, it is quite magical, with spiritually uplifting bird song adding another dimension. Once again Rónán is the shaman of his generation.
An album to chill out to, and become absorbed in, and a time-out tonic to ponder its philosophy. It’s never didactic or polemic. Never angry or bitter, its humanity hiding in plain sight in the track Farewell to English, based around the Michael Hartnett poem, whose words are a pocket manifesto for Rónán’s own song-making, “I sink my hands into tradition, sifting centuries for words, avoiding the gravel of Anglo Saxon.”
Seán Laffey

Cauldron Music, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Emer Dunne is definitely a rising star, describing herself as a folk artist with nods to contemporary and traditional music. Emer has shared the stage with the likes of Phil Coulter, The Fureys and The Celtic Tenors, for her debut album she has linked up with ace guitarist Bill Shanley, who produced the recording and assembled an impressive list of musicians including James Blennerhassett, Jason Duffy and Gavin Murphy to provide a sonic magic carpet on which she flies effortlessly.
Opening with Wild Mountain Thyme, which was released as a single, she follows up with her debut single Daisy, both of which went to No.1 in the Irish iTunes charts. It’s easy to understand why Emer is attracting attention with her clear vocal delivery, underpinned by impressive arrangements, which emphasise her real quality. There is a purity and strength in the voice, which suggest that she is more than capable of filling the niche previously occupied by singers like Mary Black, Dolores Keane and Maura O’Connell in the future.
The album is littered with standards including Bridge Over Troubled Water, And I Love You So and Scarborough Fair, but in each case she brings a freshness to her interpretation - on the latter song there’s a lovely nod to Paul Simon’s original guitar figure, with a beautiful low whistle solo from Alan Doherty. It’s these touches of class which further elevate this album to a level of real artistic relevance, and whets the appetite for more.
Elsewhere, Emer displays her sure-footed expertise in interpretations of traditional songs like The Lark In The Clear Air and Come By The Hills which are made contemporary and exciting in her capable hands, while a fittingly iconic closer is The Parting Glass. This is a hugely impressive production and we will be hearing a lot more from Emer Dunne.
Mark Lysaght

Artes Records, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
One of the best Celtic bands on the continent, based in Germany, Cara are back with another outstanding album, and this time the flavours are distinctly Caledonian.
The present Cara line-up is Gudrun Walther (fiddle, accordion and vocals), Jürgen Treyz (guitars), Kim Edgar (piano and vocals) and Hendrik Morgenbrodt (uilleann pipes, flute and whistles). A polished unit, the core of the band having been around since 2003, there’s an obvious ease and maturity they bring to their new repertoire, with many fine examples of Scottish song from Kim Edgar, who is also a standout songwriter on the Scottish folk scene. The album’s title refers to their grounding due to the Pandemic; before the lockdowns they were one of the busiest bands in Germany and toured overseas on a regular basis.
Kim Edgar features on the Child ballad The False Lover Won Back, on Lassie Lie Near Me and on True Thomas (a song about the original Thomas the Rhymer), her Scottish accent adding authority and authenticity to these fine versions. Gudrun sings Lay Down Your Weary Tune (you may know it as a crowd pleaser from Seán Keane). Gudrun wrote and sings the final track, The Spell of Winter, an optimistic look to better times to come, when they will be back on their vagabond road, and entertaining people across Europe and beyond.
Sonically there’s more electric guitar on this album, Jürgen playing his heart out on the second half of The Grounded Traveller. Elsewhere he adds echoing electric riffs Weissenborn style, almost as if there’s a pedal steel guitarist lurking in the background. There’s some rip-roaring Irish tunes, as we’d expect on a Cara album, the B & B set of reels has an additional banjo to add triplets to the fun. Three guest musicians join for a number of tracks, Tad Sergeant and Aimee Farrell-Courtney on bodhráns, and Henrick Munn on cello for track 7, the nearly 6 minute long True Thomas.
Morgenbrodt’s piping showcase is the slow air The Pretty Girl Milking The Cow, the liner notes telling us he learnt it from a 1969 recording of the then 21-year-old Finbar Furey. Fifty years later Hendrick’s version is a modern example of magnificent solo piping. He made the pipes himself and his playing is imperious; chanter, drones and regulators, nothing else added and nothing else needed; it’s the fully Monty, the whole shebang, and the dog’s hairy whiskers.
A visit to Cara’s website is a must (it comes in both German and English versions). Cara have proven once again they are the gold standard of Continental Celtic Music, original and respectful in equal measure, at home with tunes and songs both old and new and are now surely part of our living tradition.
Seán Laffey

The Short Road Home
Beardfire Music, 4 Tracks, 15 Minutes
Katie Gallagher’s EP, The Short Road Home, is four tracks, produced in Beardfire studios with David Virgin, Rohan Healy and Al Quiff. The original work is a young woman’s powerful exploration of toxic relationships, going from street-fighter tough to ethereal, savage poetry to lyricism, the songs deal with the intimate, domestic, female conflict, relationship-specific yet her themes are universal.
Get out is the song you want to become an anthem; a gentle introduction until the atmosphere is ratcheted up with driving intensity; the woman not the victim but a self-assured heroine, formidable, in charge, the abuser told ‘you should’ve known better than to mess with me’, ‘get out, go home alone’, and ‘don’t call me up, don’t follow me home’, ending with ‘get the f**k out’, vocals soaring, a striking performance.
Empty Hallways in a contemporary setting, is tender, fault on both sides, ‘we knew we wouldn’t last when it all kicked in’, the girl’s awareness that hallways ‘hold the most whispers’, a desperate image. ‘In my stomach there’s a heavy stone’, vulnerability, exposure, her voice more plaintive here, pleading with the lover to ‘tell me when you’re leaving’, because you can ‘pull me in and spit me out like only you know how’.
There’s a stylistic shift with Pedestal, desperation in the narrative and hypnotic energy; ‘I’d run down a street, I’d break my feet just to be close to you’, because ‘us girls are weak’.  Katie’s guitar playing varies from softly staccato to wildly percussive, voice and instrument as one. At four songs, the EP is an appetite wetter, because without a doubt this wordsmith and songstress, will be taken seriously.
Still only in her early twenties, her empowering song-messages are really compelling, thought-provoking, musically mesmerising, audiences will be left in no doubt as to what she wants to say.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Greatest Hits
Go Danish Folk 0721, 15 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Accordionist Mette Kathrine Jensen and fiddler Kristian Bugge are almost household names in Denmark, and in twenty years together they have collected and played a huge number of Danish traditional dance tunes. Here they present nineteen of their favourites. If you think Danish music doesn’t have reels and jigs, think again - there are some examples here, although the majority of the melodies on Greatest Hits are more akin to polkas and waltzes. Like Ireland, Denmark has its North American Diaspora, and a couple of tracks have been collected from these emigrants and reintroduced into the Danish tradition, but most of the music here is from old Danish manuscripts and local musicians, handed down for centuries.  Kristian Bugge might be familiar from groups like Gangspil and Habadekuk, the livelier side of Danish folk. Pieces such as Gammel Tretur and Skæve Thorvald gallop along almost as fast as the hopsas. On the gentler end of the spectrum, Mette Jensen’s continental chromatic accordion is perfect for the rich harmonic possibilities of half a dozen delightful waltzes and a polonaise or two.
Collected from all across Denmark, Greatest Hits offers a snapshot of the current folk dance scene and a great introduction to the exciting world of Danish folk. This music lends itself to smaller accordions, flutes, harmonicas, concertinas, and even bouzoukis: the potential for Irish-Danish cross-over is huge, and the Danish festival scene is already very familiar with Irish bands, so why not add a bit of Danish to your listening diet or your session repertoire?
Alex Monaghan

Pantarhei Records BABC, 10 Tracks, 31 Minutes
I listened to this new CD of lullabies all the way through and while they didn’t lull me to sleep like lullabies are meant to do, I was altogether charmed with the delightful production, Ninull. It features the female duo, Hersi Matmuja from Albania, Ilaria Fantin from Italy, and what enthrals are the songs and the music, served up to us in such novel arrangements.
First and foremost are the voices of the two and their heavenly harmonies. Then we are engaged by the unusual variety of instruments they and their fellow musicians play. Hersi provides percussion and Ilaria plays the archlute, an impressively large instrument with many strings. Their three accompanists play a variety of instruments that include the bassoon, cello, glockenspiel, suspended cymbals, wind chimes, Tibetan bells and shot shakers.
All the arrangements are by Hersi and Ilaria and the result is a sound that is “crafted to promote relaxation and to give serenity”. But perhaps above all in the album’s appeal is their choice of material from several countries: Turkey, India, Italy, Albania, Ireland, Latin America and Africa. Featured throughout is the fagotto or the bassoon, not an instrument one hears played very much in traditional music, but heard to considerable effect in a number of tracks in Ninull.
The duo provide an unusual treatment of Carolan’s Máire Dall (Blind Mary) with the bassoon, played by Andrea Bressan, carrying the melody, and with archlute accompaniment by Ilaria. Very attractive indeed. Unexpectedly, that is followed by Toora loora looral composed in 1913 by J. R. Shannon, a prominent Irish-American composer and lyricist active at the time Tin Pan Alley. Shannon subtitled the song an “Irish Lullaby”. It became famous when it was included in the 1940s movie Going My Way, starring Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby who included it in one of his albums. It sold over a million copies. This is a most unusual recording and every track appeals vocally and instrumentally and you’ll enjoy it. It is available on Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Amazon Music.
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label MSR005, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
I encountered Mishra a couple of years ago, on their debut album The Loft Tapes, but I didn’t feel that their sound had really gelled. Well now it has, and on this album they are presenting a confident blend of Celtic, English, Indian, Americana and Caribbean influences in their own compositions - songs and tunes. A five piece ensemble, with the composing talents of Kate Griffin and Ford Collier bringing banjo and whistles as well as vocals, this core sound is rounded out by Alex Lyon’s clarinets, Joss Mann-Hazell’s upright bass, John Ball’s oriental percussion, and a few other vocal and instrumental inputs. Based in the cultural melting pot of Sheffield, Mishra describe themselves as a global music collective - their lyrics are personal and parochial, but their sound circles the world.
A mix of Arab and Indian sounds, with low whistle standing in for the shinai, the opening song is driving and energetic. This, the Sound is more like American coffee-house music, guitars and gentle vocals, misty instrumental breaks. Reel to Reel recalls the whistle-led wonder of Deiseal in 1990s Dublin, one of only two vocal-free tracks here. The Rolling English Road is a G K Chesterton poem contrasting the brutal and bucolic aspects of Albion, entrancingly sung and set to a fine tune by Griffin. Second Line shifts from Indian to Caribbean and back again. New Air is more New Age with dark bass clarinet. The banjo line puts me in mind of Bongshang, or even of The Eagles’ Journey of the Sorcerer, while Kate’s lead vocals sit between the young Cathy Jordan and the Balkan tones of Chrysoula Kechagioglou. Two contemplative tracks bring us to the traditional song I Never Will Marry, and then comes the funky Four-Men-and-a-Dog style Burn, rolling with the rhythms, reprised as a finale.
Mishra ticks a lot of boxes, but doesn’t fit conveniently in any of them - definitely worth a listen!
Alex Monaghan

Secrets and Silence
Own Label, 27 Tracks, 1 Hour, 55 Minutes 45 Seconds
This Seattle based outfit Ockham’s Razor has created a niche in the West Coast Celtic Rock circuit since 2006. Now they unleash their piece-de-resistance Secrets and Silence. It’s an ambitious project, a lavishly packaged and produced double CD based in the realms of Irish historical legends retold for a contemporary audience. From first exposure the obvious comparison is to Horslips and there is more than a customary cap doffing to The Tain and The Book of Invasions in their approach and stylistic reinterpretation, elements of classic Rock, pop and Rock and roll exist with nods to Sinead O’Connor, Kate Bush, Rush, Thin Lizzy, and Runrig, making a potent cauldron of styles and influences.
Kríostóir Clements handles the male vocals, his compelling tones combining storyteller’s art and contemporary commentary. His evocative vocals on Something Beautiful create a delicious Celtic Pop mix that The Corrs would kill for while Forgotten Queens of Ireland rides on waves of Beach Boys harmonies and 60s surfing pop highs, traditional tunes like King of the Fairies and Sweeney’s Dream blend effortlessly within the canvas. The thrilling interpolations of the traditional tunes, idioms and nuances in a Celtic Rock canvas are added with potent contemporary songs as At Swim, Two Boys, based on the novel by Jamie O’Neill, 800, inspired by an article about the discovery of the mass grave at Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, along with Somewhere Far from Here and the dynamic Go West are delivered with passionate respect and waves of musical crosspollination.
Throughout the musical and compositional consistency impresses and beguiles and provides a collection of powerfully dramatic and melodic pen pictures both enthralling and exciting. Secrets and Silence is a riveting and majestic parade of musical genius.
John O’Regan

Tral, Trad & Traditioner
Go Danish 00921, 12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This is a new album from Mia Guldhammer (vocals ‘shruti box’ & percussion) and Morten Alfred Høirup (guitar, and vocals). Both are well-established performers on the Danish folk circuit. Tradition bearer Mia and guitarist Morten are set to recommence touring in their native country this year with US appearances already booked for 2022.
Perhaps like me you are new to the Danish song tradition, and from what I’ve heard on this album it is one well worth exploring. With Google translate foreign language albums are not as daunting as they once were. Then there is the fun of online research for song titles and the background info on their history and provenance. In short, this album is honey for the hive mind. Musically this is easily accessible and very enjoyable folk music. The title Tral, Tråd & Traditioner tells us this about the Threads of Tradition, presented by way of diddling, the drone of the shruti box and Morten’s fiery guitars driving Danish tradition into the future.
This is fundamentally a collection of their arrangements of traditional songs together with new ones composed around traditional templates & folk- narratives. The liner booklet is in two parts, the first in Danish the second in English, which was a very informative read. For example in 1891 the broadside maker Julies Strandberg sold 43,000 copies of songs to an eager public, one of those songs Rundt pa Gulvert (Around on the Floor) is sung by the duo here, the song about the dilemma of a young woman with two lovers, her only escape from their armour is to flee like a bird. The songs here are often comic in nature, age old juxtapositions of power and privilege either domestic (the eternal battle of the sexes) or the bigger social divide between master and vassals, with comic turns a plenty in store for those who care to spend some time with this friendly duo.
Mia diddles on their newly composed tune Polka Umulius, harking back to a social dance idiom that was common across much of rural Europe over a hundred years ago. On the album they appear both as a duo and with a number of guest musicians from the Danish and Finnish folk music scenes including one of its leading fiddlers Kristian Bugge, a stalwart of the Go Danish label.
The album can be purchased as CD on and electronically on Bandcamp.
Seán Laffey

From Darkness Comes Light
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Melanie Biggs is one third of the trio Moirai, she plays the melodeon or the diatonic accordion as it’s described in England. She is joined here by Kat Biggs on accordion, Jon Loomes on guitar and cittern, Bridget Slater on fiddle and David Squirrel on mandolin and octave mandolin.
Mel is a native of Derbyshire, the southern limit of the Pennines; she brings a sense of place, of nature and the folk community to her work here. People who live in mountain areas need altitude to function, there’s something about seeing sky above a hill or cloud shadows scudding across an escarpment that is a mental tonic. Mel has pieces here that prove this in spades, such as: High Places, Oppland-Upland and Winter Weather Warning (composed during a storm in the Malvern Hills).
This is an album in tune with today’s zeitgeist, the power of music being summoned to help restore mental health. Mel openly admits to having issues with this side of her well-being, not an uncommon predicament in those who are artistically gifted. The album is a healing journey from Spring to Winter. The opening track A New Day Dawns is box playing on a psychological plane, the notes hardly there, little flutterings of the bellows like the anxious breathing of a fragile creature. Other tracks reflect the seasons; on Shivelight in Spring there’s a skeletal Morris tune growing under the folds of earth ready to burst out like those Fair Maids of February, the cheerful daffodils. In other places that English bounce and bravado so characteristic of the Morris tradition comes to the fore, especially on Mounthills/Coleford Jigs. There’s a new set of jigs too, called Dream Big, the title coming from a typo, it should have been Dream Jig, the result is a happy full fontal accident.
Mel writes that the album is a journey, the music matching not just cyclic seasons but her own path through bouts of depression and pain. Don’t let that put you off; this is not private therapy for public consumption. From darkness comes light and no more so than on the final track Katy’s Theme written for her imaginary friend and erstwhile alter ego. Like the hill country she adores, this is an album of deep valleys and high look-off points. Katy’s Theme closes this album on the crest of the equation.
Seán Laffey